What year ranks as the best ever for shooters? Many convincingly argue this honor belongs to 2004 – featuring a deep catalog including Half-Life 2, Halo 2, Far Cry, Star Wars Battlefront, Battlefield: Vietnam, Doom 3, UT 2004, Counter-Strike: Source, Painkiller. Others cite 2007 as a major contender thanks to gems like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, BioShock, Team Fortress 2, Halo 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, Unreal Tournament III, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. Thanks to an amazing lineup of its own, expect 2016 to be in this conversation moving forward as well.
Shooter fans had something to look forward to in 2016 regardless of their preferred play style. Campaigns experienced a resurgence thanks to games like Titanfall 2, the Doom reboot, and even Battlefield 1. Cooperative players could dive into the juicy campaign of Gears of War 4 or the complex events of Destiny: Rise of Iron, which demanded constant communication to overcome. And multiplayer fans welcomed a new top-tier competitor in Blizzard’s Overwatch.
With no shortage of praise to dispense, our 2016 shooter of the year awards were tougher to come to a consensus on than any previous year. Check out the accolades below:
Best Campaign: Titanfall 2
This proved the toughest category to award an outright winner because we had two games deserving of the award. Doom’s throwback campaign is pure, blood-drenched bliss, but ultimately Respawn’s return to building campaigns won out thanks to its pitch-perfect pacing, strong mechanics, and continual commitment to introducing new mechanics. The time-bending Effects and Cause mission in particular stands out as one of the best in all of gaming.
Best Setting: Battlefield 1
While nearly every other major shooter franchise ran like lemmings to the space race of sci-fi settings, the clever Swedes at DICE seized a perfect opportunity to differentiate the Battlefield franchise by diving further back into history than it has ever done before. Trading laser guns and space fighters for bolt-action rifles and biplanes proved to be a major boon, as the World War I setting brought gamers to an era ripe for storytelling (and multiplayer battles) they have seldom visited before.
Best Character: Tracer (Overwatch)
We could have picked just about any Overwatch character for this honor (Hanzo and Bastion being the obvious exceptions), but ultimately decided on the first face that greets you in the game’s tutorial. Tracer is a lot more than just the lovable poster girl for Blizzard’s critically acclaimed shooter. Her Blink and Recall abilities give her a unique attacking role never seen before in shooters. She may be fragile, but her quick pace and ability to fade in and out of combat in the blink of a second make her a truly formidable foe when in the hands of an expert.
Best Graphics: Battlefield 1
DICE’s Frostbite engine is so good that EA decided to make it the de facto choice for the vast majority of its games, including BioWare RPGs and sports games. Battlefield 1 is a great showcase for why that seems like a smart decision. The graphics are jaw-dropping thanks to best-in-class weather effects and a welcome return to more destructible environments. If you want to treat your eyeballs to a spectacle, fire this game up in 4K. Considering Star Wars Battlefront took this award last year, this marks back-to-back wins for DICE.
Best Audio: Overwatch
Battlefield 1 and Doom could have won accolades for their bombastic sound effects and memorable soundtracks, but we ultimately chose Overwatch because of how seamlessly Blizzard blends audio cues into the action of its fast-paced shooter. Listen closely, and you can tell what is happening based solely on characters’ unique audible tells, from ultimate callouts to Reinhardt’s thunderous footsteps. The volume scaling smartly alerts you how close the incoming threat is, letting you either prepare for your pending doom or man up for a defiant defense.
Best Weaponry: Doom
As far as I am concerned, there is only one shotgun you should carry into battle in a first-person shooter game, and that’s the iconic original from Doom. Developer id Software wonderfully recreated this boomstick along with several other memorable Doom weapons (with a few new ones to boot). The rocket launcher, BFG 9000, and chainsaw gun are all showstoppers, and most of the weapons get even better in this reboot thanks to modifications you can find by locating field drones in each level.
Best Gunplay: Doom
Reloads are so 2015. In 2016, id Software flew in the face of modern convention by getting rid of weapon reloads, cover, a sprint button, and making players follow an NPC through a linear level design. By going back to its roots, Doom discovers the joy of the original with fantastic guns, open environments, and lightning-fast movement. When you see a mouth of hell in the middle of a room just waiting to be activated, you know it’s time for a metal-driven ballet of death and destruction. And when your guns are low on ammo, it’s time to embrace the Itchy and Scratchy-style close-quarters glory kills.
Best Remaster: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered
The remaster of the best shooter from last generation was arguably more desirable than the game it shipped with, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. While those who bothered to check out Infinity Ward’s space-faring campaign were ultimately rewarded with an underrated experience, you couldn’t fault those who pre-ordered the game from popping this Modern Warfare into their disc drives first. This all-time classic received a welcome makeover including new textures, higher resolution, and high-dynamic range lighting.
Read on to find out which shooter we named the best shooter as service, cooperative game, and competitive game.